Pubdate: Wed, 17 Jan 2018
Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)
Copyright: 2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Author: Mark Niesse


More Georgia voters than ever support changing state law to allow
harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana, according to a poll
by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Over three-quarters of those surveyed said Georgia's medical marijuana
program should be expanded, an increase from previous years. This
year's AJC poll showed that 77 percent want greater access to medical
marijuana, compared with 71 percent last year and 73 percent in 2016.

Meanwhile, approval of marijuana legalization for recreational use
also reached new heights, with 50 percent of respondents backing
legalization, compared with 46 percent last year.

Georgia lawmakers are considering legislation this year that would
allow medical marijuana dispensaries, which for the first time would
give patients a way to buy the drug legally.

Under the state's current medical marijuana law, it's legal for
registered patients to possess medical marijuana but illegal to buy or
distribute it. Patients often obtain medical marijuana from outside
Georgia, though federal law bans interstate transport of any form of
the drug. There were 3,384 active medical marijuana patients
registered with the state as of Jan. 9, according to the Georgia
Department of Public Health.

Medical marijuana in Georgia is in the form of cannabis oil that
provides patients relief from symptoms but doesn't give users a high.
The General Assembly approved limited medical marijuana use in 2015
for patients with conditions such as cancer, Parkinson's disease and

"If we passed a law saying you can use it, it's reasonable to be able
to get it," said Irma Jones, who lives in the Decatur area and
participated in the AJC's survey. "It only follows logic."

Police organizations have opposed easing medical marijuana
restrictions in Georgia, saying it could lead to public safety hazards
and full legalization.

The AJC's poll of 940 registered Georgia voters was conducted earlier
this month by the University of Georgia's School of Public and
International Affairs. The poll has a margin of error for the total
sample of 3.2 percentage points.

Nationwide, 30 states already allow medical marijuana cultivation and
distribution. Eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational

While most Georgians are comfortable with medical marijuana, they
remain divided over whether the government should allow adults to
consume it without a physician's approval.

"If people can get away from prescription medication and getting
hooked on that, and have the same relief from marijuana or cannabis
oil, that's a better trade-off," said Karen Wiseman, a testing
coordinator from Atlanta. "I don't think I would favor legalizing it.
. People wouldn't be responsible with marijuana at their

Vicky Green, who lives in the Acworth area and owns a commercial
cleaning service, said the government should treat marijuana like alcohol.

"Marijuana is not near as bad as alcohol," she said. "It should be
legal. I've never heard of anyone dropping dead from smoking it."

Legislation pending in the General Assembly, House Bill 645, would
allow up to 10 businesses statewide to distribute medical marijuana
oil to registered patients. Up to two businesses would be licensed to
cultivate, harvest and produce medical marijuana oil.

State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, said the AJC's poll results confirm
his belief that Georgians need a legal way to provide medical
marijuana to patients who are already allowed to use it.

"Citizens want us to act, so why not structure something that's
regulated, restricted and provides a safe product for our citizens?"
said Peake, the sponsor of HB 645. "Georgians want us to find a solution."

Georgia should catch up with how other states treat medical marijuana,
said Stan Wheeler, a 49-year-old College Park resident. He said
in-state cultivation of marijuana is the inevitable next step.

"If Georgia is going to allow for the use of medical marijuana in the
state," Wheeler said, "they should also have the ability to grow and
potentially control the distribution in the state."

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This poll was conducted Jan. 3-5 and Jan. 7-10 and included a total of
940 registered voters residing in Georgia. The survey was administered
by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research
Center at the University of Georgia. Interviews were conducted in
English. A statewide random sample consisting of approximately 65
percent cellphone numbers and 35 percent landline numbers was obtained
through Revily, a sampling vendor that maintains a database
constructed from state voter registration lists. Through commercial
sources, phone numbers have been appended to the individual records
(registrants) that make up these lists. The survey results were
weighted to ensure the sample was representative of the population of
Georgia registrants in terms of race, sex and age. The margin of error
for the total sample is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Do you think the state's medical marijuana law should be expanded to
allow the harvesting and distribution of medical marijuana with strict
controls within the state?

Should the General Assembly in Georgia legalize the use of marijuana
by adults for any purpose?
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